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The long black pieces of leather with small boxes attached to them that Sam puts on his arms and head several times during the movie are called "tefillin" (or less commonly, "phylacteries," which is their secular, Greek-derived name). Very observant Jews (traditionally men, although some women in the Reform movement participate as well) over the age of thirteen put them on and say a blessing. The four Torah passages inside the little boxes all contain some variation of specific instructions to put those passages "on your hand" (which is why one box goes onto the arm) and "between your eyes" (which is why one box goes on the forehead). "Laying" or "wrapping" tefillin is considered to be a very important "Mitzvah" (commandment) in Judaism. See more »
The bottle of perfume Rachel hands Sam to give to his mom is Calvin Klein Euphoria, which was not released until 2007. See more »
Entertaining & powerful film with a fantastic cast
Continuing his run as one of the best up-and-coming young actors in Hollywood, Jesse Eisenberg ('Zombieland,' 'The Social Network') stars in this true story as Sam Gold, a Hacidic Jew who mistakenly gets caught up in the world of drug trafficking for an Israeli drug cartel after accepting a "medical job" from his friend & neighbour Yosef (Justin Bartha of 'National Treasure').
After only about a decade in the film business, Jessie Eisenberg has already starred in twenty films, has headed up one of the most successful horror films ever ('Zombieland,' NOT 'Cursed'), has been pegged as a possible frontrunner for the Best Actor Academy Award (for 'The Social Network'), and has worked under such great directors as Wes Craven, David Fincher, M. Night Shyamalan, and Noah Baumbach. At only 27 years of age, this is a pretty fantastic start to a resumé. Eisenberg continues his run of successful film-picking with this little indie gem 'Holy Rollers.' Many stories are told over & over again and become repetitive & stale unless there is a distinct separation that makes the new telling worthwhile. In this case, the story of a naïve young man caught up in a world of drugs is nothing new. However, throwing this idea into the society of something so otherworldly conservative as that of Orthodox Judaism places the film on another level entirely. The story is told very well by screenwriter Antonio Macia whose only other film 'Anne B. Real,' shockingly enough, is currently residing on IMDb's bottom 100 films of all time. Macia's pacing, dialogue, and storytelling abilities must have improved vastly to rise above such an embarrassing beginning in this business.
Rookie director Kevin Asch also did a fine job with this first directorial effort. His grasp on the material and translation of it to the screen was a prime example of what young directors can do to make a film something special. Along with cinematographer Ben Kutchins, Asch superbly captured the international settings the film trots through, including the dingy areas of New York City & the Red Light district of Amsterdam. One issue the film does face comes from its drastically short runtime. Coming in at just under 90 minutes, the film does not have the length to fully flesh out everything the story had to offer.
What stands apart in this film, though, above Asch's direction & Macia's script, is the talented cast who deliver superbly engaging performances all around. Jesse Eisenberg has, for several years, been a favourite of mine among the slew of young actors. He, for instance, managed to make an otherwise dreadful film like Wes Craven's 'Cursed' into something at least a bit more watchable. Alongside Justin Bartha, Jason Fuchs (who plays Yosef's younger brother Leon), and Danny A. Abeckaser, Eisenberg truly pulls the audience into the story and greatly deepens it. Without the fine performances this cast put forth, 'Holy Rollers' would have lost a lot of the good it had going for it.
Overall, 'Holy Rollers' is an entertaining & powerful drama that goes above & beyond much of its recent independent competitors.
Final Verdict: 8/10.
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